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Debe law faculty in 18 months
Principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI) St Augustine campus, Prof Clement Sankat is excited about the expansion of the campus to south Trinidad. He thinks the Penal/Debe location is idyllic. With a hefty price tag of $499 million, the new campus promises to be a state-of-the-art educational facility accommodating the university’s “brand new, physical” Faculty of Law, a campus library, student union building, halls of residence outfitted with 100 modern rooms, swimming pool, lawn tennis court, football field, cricket ground, administration building, lecture theatres and other facilities.
Sankat said they got the best deal from China Jiangsu International Group (CJIG), the company selected as the contractor. “They gave us the best deal...the best price—$499 million. The next one was $770 million,” he said. He was confident that “we will get value for our money with the one that we chose in terms of dollars per square foot”. He anticipated work on the 100 acres of agricultural land will begin “any day now” and that in 18 months, the Faculty of Law will be completed.
Sankat spoke with the Sunday Guardian on Thursday at the Office of the Campus Principal, St Augustine. “What you see is what you get with this principal,” he said at the start of the interview. His dress code was relaxed—long pants and a long sleeve shirt. He didn’t make a fuss about a tie. When he became principal in 2008, one of his visions was the creation of “an expanded St Augustine” in the South.
He said, “We have been seeing how tertiary education has been expanding in Trinidad and Tobago and also seeing what other institutions have been doing, and as principal I always felt it was a real opportunity for UWI’s presence in and around San Fernando, which is our second largest city.” He said the campus had become congested with a student population of approximately 18,000 and staff population close to 3,000.
Close to 40 per cent of the student population came from South and Central, he said. Sankat said the demand for law had been astronomical, and Jamaica and T&T felt the need to create an environment on their own campuses for students to do all three years of law studies. He said there was a lot of clamour for the university to respond to the needs of nationals from T&T and Jamaica and a decision was taken to set up the faculties.
‘South campus is about human development’
The south campus isn’t solely about construction, but essentially about human development. Sankat said while construction would be done in a few years, what’s left behind was an eternity of opportunities. “We are putting in a catalyst for development,” he said. He said while CJIG was the main contractor, there would be considerable local input.
“This whole thing is going to be a construction boom but I want to emphasise that construction would come and go.” He was unfazed by those against the campus, saying he was not threatened because “we are doing our work responsibly.”
A UWI passion
Sankat’s passion for the university was evident in the way he spoke. He said, “I am very proud of this place, you know. I am a graduate of this place.” He said he felt strongly rooted to the UWI since he was a student in 1969. “I am not a transient. I came as a student and I worked my way to the top and I feel a great sense of pride as a UWI graduate,” Sankat said.
His mantra as principal is to build a campus that is responsive to the needs of the society which does work that is relevant and that relates to teaching, learning and outputs, especially research and development and innovation.
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